There she was, watching Disney's Beauty and the Beast with her daughter and finding herself tearing up. The tears came more than once. She was at the movies with her youngest, yet it occurred to her that her oldest, who was not with them, is actually the same age as she was when she became aware just how much she wanted to be kissed. The girlish awareness came into clear focus during winter break, right before her 12th birthday. She saw him every summer and sometimes during winter school breaks. His family lived in the same building as her grandparents who lived 700 kilometers away. She had lived with her grandparents during her first and second grades, the most cherished school years of her childhood. He was a little younger... just by a few months. He was blond with gorgeous brown eyes. He wanted to be a pilot. She wondered about what it would be like to be a wife of a pilot. She thought he was brave. She wondered if he liked her. Like really liked her. More than a friend. She knew he was happy to see her. The winter prior, when she got sick the last moment before her travels and didn't come for the winter break, her grandmother told her that he was dissapointed and kept asking about her. When she was staying with her grandparents, her bedroom window looked out on his apartment and she hid behind the curtains and waited in the hopes of seeing him. They did not talk about their feelings. They were so young. She wondered... she didn't know, but she hoped. They went to the movies together. In the summer, they walked by themselves to a local movie theater to see Some Like it Hot. It was late 1980s, the movie was either dubbed in Russian or had subtitles. It was wonderful! The comedy... the dark theater... their closeness...
Summers... On summer evenings, there was no curfew. Children of varying ages spent the summers outdoors... running, playing, boys causing mischief... and girls too. He had several fractures over the years... she doesn't remember how he got them. She waited for him when he was not home, convincing other children to stay out for a little longer... making up excuses in order not to go to bed. She thought about him... a lot! She found he was kind to her... and a bit shy around her. There were two other boys who she knew liked her. They had the same last name, but weren't related. She thought that was funny. They really wanted her attention... but she was not into them. For her 8th birthday - the age of her daughter now -- the two boys brought her wonderful gifts, one of the gifts was an adorable barking toy puppy. She doesn't remember what the other gift was. But since she liked her blond, brown-eyed neighbor, she liked his present the most. It was a teacup with a saucer and a larger matching plate. She knew his mom had picked it out. Yet it was from him nevertheless.
When she turned 12, she learned that her family was emigrating. She didn't want to go. She wanted to stay. There were several reasons... he was one of them... how does one prepare to be a wife of a pilot? That summer of painful anticipation of the start of the school year. The last one for her in Russia. But in the fall she did not go to school, there was no point as her family was planning their departure. She had stayed with her grandparents as the school year began. She cried... and cried... and cried... there were so many tears. She pleaded to stay with relatives rather than go with her immediate family. She didn't understand life. Yet, she knew her heart was touched by this boy. The last day in her grandparents' town... it was time to leave... she knew it was for forever. It was time to get into the taxi. She knew it was around the same time as the local schools let out. But his school was about 15 mins walking distance. She knew the route because she walked it so many times in 1st and 2nd grades. The car door was closing and she turned around one more time... to see him running. Running toward the taxi... to her... Running to say goodbye. He held in his hand a heart shaped pin with the English word LOVE on it. She doesn't remember exactly what he had said then.
His birthday was in the spring. He died many years ago.
As she sat in the dark theater, watching the tale as old as time, listening to a cute teacup chirp on the screen, she thought about the wisdom in Thich Nhat Hanh's quote: When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.
These photos were taken today. I am forever grateful for the gift of mindfulness. This is to honor that first love.